You can’t give 100% every day

After my trip to London, I’ve been feeling a bit down. Maybe spending four days not getting near any course book or reading had something to do.

The fact remains: I felt a bit depressed. I knew I had to overcome that state of self-pity and get things done, so the first thing I did to turn the tide was to get a bigger action plan. Until now, I was just fitting some things in a week, combining VLE assignments, reading primary and secondary reading… For a time, I kept feeling I was getting things done, but that wasn’t entirely the case.

With the bigger picture (every reading I need to do fit in week-plans and with dates), everything somehow got back on track. Or so I thought. Some days I still kept (and keep) feeling I wasn’t getting things done, and that pained me.

Luckily, I found this. And, even though it’s poor consolation, it still made me feel better about not getting everything at the first time.

See, I feel some important things I’m going to learn this year are: (a) to be more flexible, and not the hard-headed rhinoceros I usually am and (b) to be selective of what really needs to be done and what really matters. It’s funny, because I didn’t think that would be the personal gain I’d get for doing this BA. I thought it would help me to write in a succinct, interesting way, but I didn’t thought it would force me to rethink some of my strategies when approaching a difficulty.

So… Baby steps.

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So…

Yeah, I’m still alive, the deers in Richmond Park didn’t kill me in a stampede, though I was really tempted to cry JUMAAAANJI!. 

Anyway.

I’m still swamped with books, but I think I have finally devised a way to make the most of them. I keep struggling with difficult essays (Stanley Fish, I hate you), but all in all, I’m starting to get the grasp of things and, especially, I’m beginning to understand that the point is questioning everything. It may seem common-sense, but it’s not for me. I come from a system where you’re expected to “vomit” data in exams, so the whole questioning thing is, as redundant as it sounds, out of question.

I managed to end the Odyssey, and right now I’m even enjoying (a tiny bit) some of the secondary reading, inasmuch I’m getting to learn things I didn’t even think of. Sometimes when I’m reading enjoyable things in secondary reading I think: “Yeah, this is why I chose to do this BA in the first place”. I feel like a little boy in a wonderful toy shop, surrounded by too many bright things claiming his attention. I guess this is normal now, and I think I will “outgrow” it and learn to focus my attention in what really matters.

In my hands I have now Jude the Obscure, and while Hardy somehow reminds me of Dickens (at least in the “pining for the city” issue), it’s also dark and full of sorrow. I’m not used to this type of literature, but I think I will enjoy it. A nice collateral effect of me being swamped with books of literary theory is that my senses have sharpened in noticing curious things (repetitions, symbols, metaphors…) and I duly underline them even in the first reading, when you’re supposed to “enjoy the book”.

Also, the VLE is getting weirder, but I think that’s normal. People on my tutor groups don’t seem to have time to answer the questions, and me myself I’m struggling a bit to keep up, though I’m really trying and I have managed for the moment. I like the prompts the tutors give, they’re inspiring and help me sorting out important questions.

That’s it for now. I hope you are all okay.

Review of the Week (20/10/14 – 26/10/14)

Here we are, one week more.

Truth be told, it hasn’t been an easy week. As a commenter yesterday pointed, I “might suffer from Start of Semester Motivation”. Maybe it is so. It’s been four or five years since the last time I’ve studied steadily on a daily basis (not silly courses to improve french/english), and in fact, I guess I was kind of excited about studying something I really like, without the social pressure of “get a degree” (which I already have)

The fact that I’m enrolled in a distance study course also plays a big role on my current disorientation. As a university student, I was always told what was important, what should I do and how much of it. In distance studies, you’re on your own. On one hand, it’s great: you have the autonomy required for significant learning, you can tailor your studies to suit your interests, and you don’t have someone at your back all the time pointing everything for you. On the other hand, however, you can feel there’s no sense of direction, and, even when the VLE lets you connect with more people in your same situation, it’s not the same as having face-to-face buddies to discuss things. Also, I don’t feel that comfortable being in a ton of whatsapp groups and a myriad of FB groups.

Of course, I was the one who chose to do this in the first place, and I’m not disappointed. In fact, I think that, even if don’t achieve the BA certificate, I will be really glad to have tested out my abilities, to have challenged myself in this way and I’m sure I will end up with some nice skills (better writing and reading skills, for example).

This week I attained (and even surpassed) my “30-hours goal a week”, and in fact, I feel I’m starting to get a grasp of what’s expected of me. It’s also true, nevertheless, that I’ve been really hard on myself, and the point of this thing was enjoying the learning process, so next week I’ll have to be a tad more flexible and organize my rest time as well as my study time.

On a brighter note, on Thursday I’m flying to London! I love that city. I will be buying a few books and having fun strolling in the streets, a little change from good ol’ (and boring) Luxembourg.

Two rough days

Hi, fellow Phaeacians! (?)

Maybe you were wondering if this would turn into another forgotten and forsaken blog. Fear not: I’m here!

The past two days have been really hard, and they have been even harder taking in account the past week I felt on top of everything. Between Tuesday and Wednesday I’ve spent almost 18 hours studying… well, let’s say… trying to figure out what I’m supposed to know.

Two texts have got in my way to the Olympus of knowledge: the first chapter on Beginning Theory, by Peter Barry, and The Cambridge Companion to Homer. I made the (newbie) mistake of believing I could cope with these two this week. Truth is I’ve managed to read the first chapter on Barry (and it took me HOURS), and, despite accomplishing my goal of reading the first part of the Cambride Companion, I feel I will have to revisit it carefully. The chapter on the Iliad was particularly difficult, since I’m only acquainted with the basic facts and characters of that epic, but not with little details of it. I even thought reading the Iliad in its original language would have been less puzzling (Trivia fact about myself: I studied ancient greek in my pre-university courses)

However, I must admit there’s been a mistake on my part which has nothing to do with the complexity of texts. I’m such a hard-headed person… Whenever I can’t get through something, I keep tackling it with all my might. While this could be a gift, it can easily be a curse too, because it deprives me of the flexibility needed to succeed in these studies (and in life, in general). So, yes, I read the chapter on Barry and the first part of Companion, but at the cost of falling behind in my reading of the Odyssey, which, by the way is getting a tad boring (C’mon, Ody, couldn’t you stay with Calypso of the braided tresses?!)

Also, on Tuesday was Dido’s birthday, and I couldn’t even take a proper picture of her. Sigh. This week is surely being a try of my patience.

I hope you all are doing well!

Getting through the first books of The Odyssey

Hi, literature lovers!

This week is devoted to the reading of the Odyssey, as I may have said somewhere here before. So long, I’ve read from book I to VI, and I like it. I don’t like that there are tons of repeated constructions, like “the goddess of gleaming eyes” (for Athene) or “the Ruler of the aegis” (that’s Zeus) or “Earth-shaker” (Poseidon seemed a real badass guy)

Aside from that, I’m enjoying my time with the book. There are, at least for the moment, constant references to the Trojan war (the main theme in the Iliad), but since I’m a bit familiarized with the most significant events of the war told in the Iliad, everything is fine. I’m glad that the Odyssey is the prescribed reading and not the other, though, since the adventures of Odysseus are far less boring than reading of the constant struggle between Achaeans and Argives. I don’t know. The Iliad just reminds me a lot of the battle scenes in The Lord of the Rings saga, but as if there were only those scenes in the book, and not the whole story of the characters behind. I get it, I get it. Homer wasn’t trying to present a full theatre of characters, but rather, he was trying to make “reachable” for the common greeks some of the feelings one could get in a war (destruction, chaos, win, loss…). I guess I’m a child of my time (who said that?) and thus, I love novels as a genre and deep characters.

I’m happy with my decision to read this book in depth, despite the repetitions and all. It seems there’s a lot hidden for a XXIst century reading, and I like to unravel little mysteries. The secondary reading seems a bit hard right now. I’ve read the introduction in The Cambridge Companion to Homer and I already feel a little overwhelmed, but I guess I’ll get used to it and manage to find my way.

Review of the week (13/10/14 – 19/10/14)

Hi there, fellow mutant creatures nice people!

I have been thinking, and I want to devote Sunday’s post to a brief review of the week: what did I plan, how I’ve managed, difficulties to overcome…

This was the first proper study week, the one where I wasn’t only reading mindlessly, but also keeping a track of things. That said, Monday and Tuesday were a bit difficult, and I’ve figured out why: it’s been four or five years since I last took a university examination, and furthermore, this is the first time I’m facing studies that require depth and analysis, that means my good memory is not gonna save me from this one. I’m on my own.

My original goal was of 30 hours per week. In fact, I would like to achieve that in the week days, so in the weekend I would be able to rest a bit more and also do a brief revision of the key points of the week. However, it’s seven in the evening on a Sunday, and the reality is that I’ve only achieved 29 hours and 40 minutes, and that’s including two hours and a half yesterday, which I needed to complete a few tasks set for this week.

Yet I’m not disappointed. The truth is I had set to read Great Expectations in three weeks (a volume per week), and in fact, I finished it yesterday. A few things played an important part in that: I underestimated my reading abilities and I have to wait to next week to get more books I’ll be needing. That means in the next two weeks a spot has cleared where I can fit another task, and I’m sure I will be thankful for it in the long run. I’ve also been able to get a good read of more meta material (The Arts Good Study Guide), and I think this will help me in the future too.

All in all, this week I’ve tried to balance time spent and tasks. I’ve tried not to focus too much on either of them. I don’t want my plans to become a mere way of filling hours, and I don’t want to be heedless of time and entirely task-driven, because focusing too much in “ticking things off” can easily distract you from the real goals.

I hope you had a nice week!

(And any advice is welcome 😉 )

The eternal questions

Hi, fellow literature freaks!

I’m only four chapters away from finishing Great Expectations, and, in anticipation of next week’s work, I’ve already read the introduction to The Odyssey. And that will be today’s topic.

While I was reading this insightful introduction by G.S Kirk, I encountered a few things that I knew of, mainly relating to the development of the plot in the book. However, it also spoke of different debates around both the Odyssey and the Iliad that I hadn’t heard before. The most interesting one, in my opinion, was wether these two books have been “written” by the same author or by the same author but at different times. Notice I put the quotation marks because authorship (and written word, in a slightly different way) in those times held a different meaning than they do today, and Homer is believed to have compiled the epic poems that conform both books from oral tradition, with a few touches here and there.

Now, the debate laid upon the foundations that The Iliad, while putting somehow the accent on Achilles, was more focused in war, violence, and a sort of abstract but universal concepts, while The Odyssey puts entirely the accent on Odysseus, its hero (as we can see already in its title), and shows his personal qualities and adequacies instead of more universal concepts. It is believed that Homer could have compiled the two works, but at different times of his life, thus the fact that the latter looks “milder” or focuses on human nature more than “abstract concepts” (as war, violence, win, loss…). It also implies that Homer could have had a more active role than mere compiler.

What I found more interesting of the debate is the fact that the figure of the author, still in times when written word and authorship seemed less important than oral tradition, could cling to its own changing throughout life, and thus, the “author” doesn’t write (and think) the same way when he’s 15, 35 and 55. It never occurred to me that this could be possible even for Ancient Greece authors, where one tends to think of long beards, long questions and eternal dialogues (and monologues). It’s easy to think that the same questions that today puzzle us, didn’t puzzle them (or not in the same way), until one reaches the understanding that certain questions have been in the human mind since the beginning of time, and in fact, these questions form a great deal of the most relevant philosophical topics of all times. Realizing all this also helps a lot in visualizing the ancient author as, after all, a human being, and not the all-mighty demiurge most textbooks depict.

All in all, that’s why books like The Odyssey and The Iliad still resonate with us a lot, even when the historical, social, political contexts are much more different. They still have the invaluable quality we search in books of bringing eternal questions to our minds, they make us think of the world and of ourselves with the same interest a human being in Ancient Greece could feel when he saw a poet reciting these same poems in the agora.